The Power of Focus: How to Get Better Results in Less Time

"The successful person is the average person, with laser-like focus."
- Bruce Lee

Have you ever noticed that some people get more results by working out for 45 minutes than others do by working out for 90 minutes?

Many people who go to the gym barely do enough to raise their heart rate. Others lift weights so inefficiently it doesn't isolate the intended muscle. Still, others are on their phones for long stretches in between sets.

We live in a world of dabbling, diffusion, and distraction.

If you are interested in achieving excellent results, the simple answer is to use the power of focus. Light diffused is not very powerful. Light focused becomes a laser that can cut through steel.

I encourage 3 strategies: Intention, Intensity and Interval.

1. Intention.

Be clear on what you want to achieve, whether in the next 30 minutes, 30 days or 30 months. Being crystal clear on your intended results is similar to putting the destination in your GPS.

2. Intensity

Once you are clear on the results you want to achieve, it is important to be single-minded as you work toward that goal. Extraordinary results come from extraordinary effort. Eliminate distractions and anything that steers you in the wrong direction. This doesn't mean that you work on your goals 100% of the time, but when you are working on your goals, you give 100% focus.

3. Interval

Think of your periods of focus as intense sprints, not a marathon. Life is to be enjoyed. We burn-out and become less effective when we are always in push, push, push mode. 

Here is the bottom line, if you chase two rabbits, you catch neither. When you have important work to do, no more multi-tasking. Do one thing at a time.

"In the absence of disciplined focus, we are strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivIa."

- Patricia Schell

For more on this important topic, download my short ebook, Power Focus here.

Excellence Is The Next 5 Minutes

It's overwhelming to me to think of being excellent for the rest of my life. And there is nothing I can do now in terms of being excellent yesterday or tomorrow.

But I love the concept that author Tom Peters speaks of, 'excellence is the next 5 minutes.'

That I think I can do. And you can too!

  • Excellence is ... making your bed.

  • Excellence is ... turning off the lights as you leave the hotel room.

  • Excellence is ... not putting plastic bags in the recycling bin.

  • Excellence is ... putting the dishes in the dishwasher.

  • Excellence is ... sending a thank you note.

  • Excellence is ... reading your email out loud before sending it.

  • Excellence is ... thinking before you speak.

  • Excellence is ... giving the other person your focused attention.

  • Excellence is ... attending meetings prepared and engaged.

  • Excellence is ... showing up early.

  • Excellence is ... following up and following through.

  • Excellence is ... leaving an 'over and above' tip for 'over and above' service.

  • Excellence is ... over-preparing for the presentation.

  • Excellence is ... helping a co-worker.

  • Excellence is ... delighting the customer.

  • Excellence is ... over-delivering.

In a world full of carpenters, be a craftsman.

3 Ways to Leave Yourself Margin

"Life is better with breathing room."
- Andy Stanley

We don't like cramped spaces.

We don't like sitting in the middle seat on the airplane. We don't like narrow parking spaces where we can barely open the car door. And we don't like blog posts that leave no white space to make it easy on the eyes. We all like 'margin.'

In the same way, you need to create margin in your life. Margin is space that affords you to be less stressed, more in control and allows you to do things with excellence.

Lack of margin, living close to the edge, means if one thing doesn't go as planned, everything goes haywire.

For example, if you wait until April 15 to do your taxes, what if your computer crashes or a family emergency comes up?

Here's the deal, when you don't give yourself margin, you become stressed and selfish.

How many times have you walked into a room to listen to a presentation and the speaker is frazzled because they are fiddling with technology at the last minute? They are consumed with getting the PowerPoint to work and are unable to focus on greeting people as they walk in.

Your life will become easier if you get in the habit of leaving yourself margin.

Here are 3 simple ways to leave yourself margin.

1. Create Self-Imposed Deadlines
Plan to have your taxes done by April 1st. If you are a leader, deliver the performance review two weeks before it is due. (You have to do these things anyway.) Constantly running behind or doing things at the last minute is exasperating.

2. Don't Overbook Yourself
You are setting yourself up for failure if you try and cram too much into a day. The quality of your work and the quality of your relationships suffer.

3. Plan to Arrive 15 Minutes Early for EVERYTHING
Driving to appointments or meetings when you are running late is no fun. You can't enjoy the drive, there is little time to think and you become easily annoyed at other drivers. It's so much better arriving cool, calm and confident.

Life can be challenging, why make it more difficult?

Life is an adventure, leave yourself margin and enjoy the ride!

Are You In The Stands Or On The Field?

"Some people make things happen.
Some people watch things happen."

Do you realize that when you are watching TV, very often you are observing people making a lot of money doing something they love? Let's not spend a lot of time passively watching actors, athletes, musicians, and political pundits.

Let's spend more time doing what we love, positively impacting others and providing well for ourselves, our families and others.

Don't get me wrong, as a lifelong, very devoted Chicago Cub fan, I enjoy following them throughout the season. And I attend my share of concerts. But these activities should be small, enjoyable slices of life, not what we live for.

Life is not meant to be a spectator sport.

Here are 4 ways you can get out of the stands and onto the playing field.

1. Hone Your Skills.
Take the natural talent you have, then refine and develop it to the point of excellence. This then becomes a strength.

2. Serve Somebody
The whole point of having a strength is to use it in service for someone else. Make sure you are regularly making a positive difference in the lives of others.

3. Create Something
Write a book, craft a quilt, design a house, start a side business, paint a picture, build a website, restore a car, nurture character in your children, learn to play a musical instrument, grow a garden, develop a friendship.

4. Get Out
Take a walk in nature, ride a bike, go to a museum, have coffee with a friend, visit another city for a weekend, take a personal retreat.

All of the above are positive, pro-active actions. We aren't made to watch life pass us by. The relaxer chair is there for us to enjoy just long enough to get replenished and go back in the game,  We are born to roll up our sleeves and make things happen.  We are born to be in the game, to get scrapes and bruises. To get dirt on our uniform. To experience failure and victory.

There is joy in the battle.

We have a very short time on Earth. Let's make the most of it.

Watch Your Words: What You Say is an Inside Job

"Every time you open your mouth,
your mind walks out and parades up and down for all to see."

- Edwin Stuart
 

Your words are powerful. Not only do your words have an effect on others, but your words also reveal who you truly are.


Your words can hurt, tear down, and discourage.

  • When you criticize others, you reveal insecurity.

  • When you grumble and complain, you reveal ingratitude.

  • When you blame others, you reveal a lack of responsibility.

  • When you dominate a conversation, you reveal self-centeredness.


Your words can heal, build up and encourage.

  • When you encourage others, you reveal a spirit of generosity.

  • When you compliment others, you reveal kindness.

  • When you apologize, you reveal inner strength.

  • When you give others credit, you reveal humility.


Jesus taught that the words we speak come from the heart. Work on your inside and you won’t have to worry about what comes out on the outside.

5 Ways To Be E.L.I.T.E.

“It is one of the strange ironies of life that those who work the hardest, who subject themselves to the strictest discipline, who give up certain pleasurable things in order to achieve a goal, are the happiest.”

- Brutus Hamilton

I love the word ELITE. Not in the sense of the Hollywood elite or elitism. But in the sense of being world-class, operating at the highest level. Being the very best.
 
I don’t recommend comparing yourself to other people, but I do recommend separating yourself from the pack.
 
Here are 5 ways to be E.L.I.T.E.
 

EXCELLENCE

Elite performers are focused in just a few areas. Elite performers are not well-rounded, they are sharp. They concentrate their fire on a few things. They work on maximizing their strengths, not bringing their weaknesses up to average. They develop and hone their God-given talent.

People are known for what they can do, not what they can’t do. I have never heard anyone say, “Michael Jordan is a lousy plumber.”
 
Elite performers are not dabblers. They are not easily distracted. They are not diffused. Their interests and efforts are not a mile wide and an inch thick. They practice selective ignorance and focus on the things that matter and things they can influence.

If you see an elite performer in any field, you know they sacrificed to get there. They gave up many other activities and interests so they could perform at a higher level.
  

"Find a tiny stream where your strengths can flow
and carve it into a Mississippi.”

Marcus Buckingham

LOVE

Being elite in relationships means practicing kindness, taking a sincere interest in others, practicing generosity towards others. It means giving others focused attention and treating them like a very important person. 

Being elite with people means being an affirmer and encourager. It means exercising grace and giving others the benefit of the doubt. 

Elite performers look for the best in others. They help others move closer towards their hopes and dreams. They celebrate the success of others.
 
Elite performers don’t gossip or criticize. They don’t seek revenge. They don’t get all twisted up by the inconsideration of others. They are not easily offended. They don't get upset if they are slighted. They don’t focus on the foibles or shortcomings of others. 
 

INTEGRITY

Being elite means asking more of yourself than others ask of you.It involves holding yourself to a higher standard. Integrity comes from operating from a set of personal values. Being solid on the inside.It’s strength of character.

It’s not getting too high or low emotionally. Being elite means being the same person in all circumstances and with all groups of people.
 
Being elite does not involve focusing on appearances rather than substance. It does not gauge self-belief on the praises, criticisms or opinions of others. The elite are not intimidated by others of a higher position or more wealth.
 

TOUGHNESS

Being elite involves grit, pursuing things with perseverance. The elite know that much of the game of life is won behind the scenes, in the daily grind. Being elite means resilience, bouncing back strong from adversity. Being elite means not giving in. Elite does what it takes.
 
Being elite means not blaming others or thinking of yourself as a victim. Being elite means not making excuses. Elite performers don’t follow the whim of faulty and fleeting feelings but practice personal discipline.
 

ENTHUSIASM

Being elite involves having a fire in the belly. Playing offense in life. It means bringing enormous amounts of positive energy to the task at hand. The elite are goal-oriented and pursue things with passion. They have a purpose and want to make a dent in the universe. They are vibrant and exude joy.
 
Elite performers are not bored. They don’t lack vision or purpose. They don’t just go through the motions.

"To be what we are and
to become what we are capable of becoming
is the only end in life.”

-Robert Louis Stevenson


Elite is the opposite of mediocre. It is the contrast to average. The elite have an aversion for the ordinary.

Normal is overrated.
 
Be willing to do what most others won’t do. Think and act different. Focus on the being the best person you can be.
 
Live on a higher level.

Do You Have the Generosity Gene?

"The world of the generous gets larger and larger;
the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller."

- Proverbs 11:24

I recently met a cook, Jean, who works in a retirement community for nuns. During a recent training program, he said that one Sister likes her bacon extra, extra, extra crispy. "So you know what I do?"he said. "I make sure that every morning; she gets her bacon extra, extra, extra crispy."

This same cook also said that a co-worker in the dining room expressed an interest in becoming a cook. So Jean suggested that, at break times, he come back to the kitchen and Jean would teach him how to cook.

Jean has the Generosity Gene. Jean has Generosity of Spirit. Do you?

Take a quick assessment.

  • In conversations: Is it all about you? Or do you take a sincere interest in others? Do you ask about their world, their interests, their dreams, their goals?

  • At work: Do you constantly seek credit? Or do you focus on appreciating, recognizing, and giving credit to others? 

  • In everyday actions:When receiving good service at a restaurant, are you careful to not calculate the meal tax in the tip? Or do you round the tip up over 20%.

  • In sales:Do you forget about the customer once you received your commission? Or do you insure they are delighted with your product or service long after you have received your compensation?

  • In business:If you are a business owner or executive, do you look at your employees as a mere expense? Or does it make you happy to provide generous compensation so they can live well?

If it is all about you, you live in a very small world indeed.
If you have the generosity gene, you become influential: the world and possibilities open up. 

How did you do in the assessment above? Not so well? Maybe it's time to try on a new pair of genes.

"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no person
can sincerely try to help another without helping themselves."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson



Tough, Tender and Tenacious

"We must stop setting our sights by the light of each passing ship;
instead we must set our course by the stars."

- George Marshall


Here's a healthy approach to life that deserves consideration - be tough on yourself, tender with others and tenacious with priorities.

TOUGH

By being tough on yourself, I don't mean beating yourself up for mistakes, that's unhealthy and discouraging. What I mean is holding yourself to a high standard. Be disciplined. Have high expectations of yourself. Seek to be your best self, all day, every day. If you fail, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back at it. Do what others aren't willing to do. Decide to be exceptional. There is deep internal satisfaction in practicing excellence.

TENDER

Practice uncommon kindness and patience. It's easy to judge and criticize others. But we don't know what's going on in the lives of others and we see imperfectly. Look for the best in others. Be an encourager. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Exercise grace in relationships. Overlook minor offenses and be quick to forgive. Yes, there are times to have difficult conversations, but those still should be done with the other person's best interest in mind.

TENACIOUS

Decide what is important to you in life, then attack it with intention and intensity. Live a life of focus, not distraction, diffusion or dabbling. Be committed and passionate about important things. Get after it. No half-hearted measures in areas that count. Develop and hone your God-given strengths. Channel your best energy into things that are most important. Concentrate your efforts on the vital few, not the trivial many. Have a fire in your belly for what matters most.

Focus on Excellence and Success Will Follow

"Try not to become a person of success,
but rather try to become a person of value."

- Albert Einstein


There is a lot to be said for setting goals and achieving results. However, goals and results aren't always something we control. What we can control is our effort. If we focus on giving great effort, success is a likely result.

Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden won an amazing 10 championships in 12 years. Ironically, he never talked about winning. He would always preach to his players that what mattered most was giving their best effort. Their practice sessions were meticulously executed and they were conditioned so well that winning the game seemed like a natural by-product.

Don't tie your emotions to the results. Knowing that you gave your best effort provides great internal satisfaction. The success that may come with it is the frosting on the cake.

  • You can't control how well your book will sell. You can ensure that you did quality work.

  • You can't control whether you will be selected for the position, but you can control your effort in preparing for the interview.

  • You can't control whether you will be admitted to the college of your choice. You can control the effort and time you spent studying in high school and preparing for the college entrance exams.

Giving your best effort puts you in the best position for success.


Here are three ways to pursue excellence.

1. Do one thing at a time. We easily become distracted and diffused. I saw a guy at the gym a few weeks ago who was literally doing arm curls with one arm while texting with the opposite hand. Whatever you are doing, do it with intention and intensity. There is power in single-minded focus.

2. Focus on a few things. We may be interested in many things but focus on the few that count. Practice selective ignorance. Limit your information intake. Keep current with the news, but watching political pundits debate doesn't make your life any better. Decide to be sharp instead of well-rounded.

"Devoting a little of yourself to everything
means committing a great deal of yourself to nothing."

- Michael Laboef

3. Make excellence your standard. In things that don't matter, get it done and over with. But with things that count, take it to the next level. Become dissatisfied with mediocrity. Aim for high quality. Seek to be exceptional. Be a craftsman, not a carpenter.


No one who ever gave their best regretted it.

Gratitude: The Healthiest Emotion

"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others."
- Cicero

I love when I come across videos of someone hearing or seeing colors for the first time. It is very emotional. It reminds me that I take beautiful things for granted every day. Perhaps, instead of being frustrated when missing out on that close parking space, we should be thankful for the ability to walk.

The older I get, the more I believe that thriving in life is largely due to having the right perspective, not the right 'stuff'. We, as humans, have the unique ability to train our brains in ways that are beneficial.

"Gratitude doesn't change the scenery. It merely washes clean the glass you look through so you can clearly see the colors."
- Rochelle Goodrice

Here are 3 simple ways to increase gratitude in your life.

1. Look up, not around. Instead of being envious of the few things you don't have, you could be more thankful for all the things you do have. Perhaps when you hit the snooze button in the morning, start your day with 9 minutes of gratefulness. And at the end of the day, instead of counting sheep, count your blessings.

2. Quit complaining. I recently heard someone say that every evening at dinner he asks his kids "What's the best thing that happened to you today?"  In a world of whiners and complainers, you stand out when you focus on wins and successes.

3. Express gratitude. There is a big difference between felt gratitude and expressed gratitude. Get in the habit of expressing gratitude. Write thank you notes. Tell your spouse, kids, co-workers how much you appreciate them. Look your restaurant server in the eye and say "Thank you for the good service." When staying at a hotel, leave the housekeeper with a tip and thank you note for cleaning your room.

"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like
wrapping a gift and never giving it."

- William Ward

Like almost everything in life, gratitude is a choice. When you choose to be grateful, life is better for you and everyone around you.